Quiet Wood is secretly the funny leader of talented Wilmington roster

WILMINGTON, Del. – James Wood is quiet for his size. At 6-foot-7 and 240 pounds, one would think he would have just as big and loud of a personality.

That could also be assumed given he is the Nationals’ newest top prospect and one of the highest-ranked minor league players in all of baseball.

But that is far from the case for this 20-year-old. Since coming to the Nationals last summer in the blockbuster Juan Soto trade with the Padres, Wood has been nothing but humble, reserved and soft-spoken.

At least in the eyes of the media.

According to his teammates at High-A Wilmington, Wood is one of their leaders while also being one of the funniest guys on the team.

“James is a funny guy,” said Blue Rocks outfielder-turned-first baseman T.J. White, who is the Nats’ 10th-ranked prospect in his own right. “He’s really talented and he works super hard. He’s a leader, so we all pretty much just follow whatever he does.”

White began that response with a laugh while talking to a few D.C. media members outside Wilmington’s dugout before Tuesday’s home opener at Frawley Stadium. He was then asked why he laughed.

“He’s just a funny guy.”

Then White was informed that Wood is usually shy with the media. Is he more talkative with his teammates?

“Yeah, he’s loose, easy-going.”

White is one of a handful of players at Wilmington who played with Wood at Single-A Fredericksburg for two months after the trade last season. Wood hit .293 with two homers, eight doubles and 17 RBIs in 21 games to help lead the FredNats to a second-half championship and a Carolina League playoff berth. Being around familiar faces has helped him ease into his first taste of High-A ball.

“Yeah, definitely,” Wood said. “Especially just having someone you’ve been around, like Trey (Lipscomb) and T.J. A lot of the guys, they come up from Fredericksburg. So having a lot of familiar faces definitely does help.

“It’s a lot of fun. I think we’re going to be scaring a lot of pitchers and put a lot of runs up on the board. I think we have a really deep lineup. So it will be a lot of fun.”

Wood is already scaring opposing pitchers himself, including former top draft pick Kumar Rocker. He had back-to-back three-hit games to begin Wilmington’s first homestand at Frawley Stadium this week, including a double, a triple, three RBIs and nine total bases, and then hit a two-run home run and a sac fly Thursday night. He’s started the season hitting .381 with a 1.000 OPS to show the highly rated skillset that accompanies his massive frame.

“I think I'm adjusting well,” Wood said. “Still trying to get to know my coaches and teammates. Get used to different arms, seeing different teams and all of that. So it’s been good. … Staying patient.”

“I think it’s phenomenal,” White said of watching Wood do what he can do on the diamond at his size. “I think it shows people that it doesn’t really matter how big or small you are. You can play at any level.”

White is also glad to now be on the same team as Wood after playing against him in high school.

“It’s different,” he said. “But I really get to know him a lot better just as a person and just see what he’s all about.”

Lipscomb is also familiar with Wood from their high school days. Wood grew up in Rockville, Md., and was a two-sport standout at St. John’s College High School in D.C. before transferring to IMG Academy in Florida during his junior year to further his baseball development. Meanwhile, Lipscomb grew up in Frederick, Md., as a three-sport athlete at Urbana High School before going on to play baseball at the University of Tennessee and now being the Blue Rocks third baseman and Nationals’ 19th-ranked prospect.

“It’s really cool, especially playing with James. He’s my roommate,” Lipscomb said. “We live 20 minutes away from each other back home in Maryland. So it’s been nice to just have somebody there. He’s played a full season in pro ball, so it’s nice to have him.”

It also must be nice to have a top prospect hitting in the heart of the order most nights. But Wood, as humble as the day he joined the Nationals, isn’t concerned about his rising prospect status. He’s staying focused on the game at hand.

“No. Same game,” he said. “I’m not really too concerned about that.”

Wood’s funny side did finally come out a little bit while talking to us. When asked what has been his biggest adjustment at High-A, he smirked.

“Right now, it’s probably just the weather,” he said with a smile. “It’s a little cold. I haven’t really played in cold weather in a couple of years. So just getting used to that again.”

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